The media continues to follow Robert Mueller’s investigation into the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia. A fuss was made this past week about Trump knowing that his national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, lied not only to Vice President Mike Pence but also to an FBI agent before Trump fired him. Don’t get excited. This represents some of the what of the matter. But it’s just part of the story.

The investigation will bear fruit only when we understand why Trump turned his back on, and even condemned, the United States’ top security agencies for reporting that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. Why he admires Putin and his governing style yet has chided leaders of allied governments. Why he fired FBI head James Comey. And why, early this week, he trashed the FBI.

We know Trump believes good relations with Russia can be to our advantage. But that’s like advocating mom and apple pie. It’s always preferable to establish good relations with all nations— even those with whom we have conflicts, such as Iran and North Korea. But Trump has never assumed the role of statesman and geopolitical thinker. He has never written or delivered cogent speeches or position papers detailing the ways American-Russian engagement can make the world safer and freer.

So back to the key question: Why all the contacts between Trump’s people and Russia? Why did members of the Trump team mention the easing of sanctions imposed by Barack Obama before the inauguration? Why the guilty pleas from Trump team members, which may cripple or end the careers of those who entered them? And why the constant discovery of more questionable contacts between the Trump campaign and transition teams, and Russia?

Follow the money!

On Tuesday, Thompson Reuters reported Mueller subpoenaed global banking giant Deutsche Bank for information regarding Trump and his family’s accounts and transactions. Might this relate to past New York Times and Vanity Fair articles on Russians laundering money through Trump condominium projects in New York and Florida? Will it reveal other Trump-Russian financial arrangements? Whatever, this form of inquiry represents the search for key answers.

It’s also critical to know why Trump refused to release his tax returns as all other candidates have over the last forty years. Look for Mueller’s team to review Trump’s tax returns soon—if they’re not doing so now. Their examination will go way past the tasks performed by the IRS. A tax expert told me that the IRS doesn’t look for illegal activities when individuals or entities state appropriate revenues, claim reasonable deductions and pay appropriate taxes. Additionally, sources of revenue and recipients of expenses don’t draw attention. It’s all about the numbers.

Mueller’s forensic accountants and investigators will dig deep. They’ll search for sources of revenue and recipients of financial obligations not listed on Trump’s returns. They’ll seek to uncover layers of shell companies to find the real people and organizations behind Trump’s business dealings.

When Mueller and his staff reach conclusions, they’ll know if Trump sought to enable Russians to profit from equity positions in some of his projects and to collect on large debts he owes Russian banks, oligarchs and mobsters. The truth is out there. To find it, Mueller will follow the money.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.


  1. Bruce Abramson on December 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve yet to see a Special Prosecutor I trusted. I’m not about to start. The entire concept of an unaccountable zealot, with an unlimited budget, nearly unfettered subpoena powers, a charge to find *something* incriminating about a targeted individual (or small set of individuals) is un-American. The appointment warps, corrupts, and destroys people with long records of decency. It was true of Walsh, Starr, Fitzgerald, and every other one of which I am aware. Less than a year in, we can see that it has destroyed Mueller’s credibility. It will get worse.

    • David on December 8, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      Bruce, I’d like to know why you see Mueller as a zealot. He doesn’t strike me as that, so your take would be valuable. Is it because of the way he’s gathering information? My biggest WHY of course is Trump’s denigration of the nation’s security agencies–refusing to accept their findings–and his refusal to release his tax returns. His returns could very well demonstrate no (extraordinary) ties with Russia, which would be favorable to him. At any rate, this investigation continues. We’ll have to wait for a) Mueller’s conclusions, and b) a review of their veracity based on the report he issues. He makes a case or he doesn’t. Of course, he may state that Trump has done nothing wrong, that Trump has his own opinions about Russia and the 2016 election to which he’s entitled, and that the matter should be laid to rest. Or not.

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